Wheatless Wednesday – Mojo Bass with Beans and Rice

0

Mojo Bass with Beans and Rice

Mojo Bass with Beans and Rice

After spending a week sampling food in Cuba, I couldn’t wait to get home and try some of my favorites. I had an opportunity to try many types of fish, Bass, Pargo (red snapper) and Dorado (mahi mahi).   One of my favorite preparations included fish seasoned with Mojo, which is a very popular sour orange/garlic/herb sauce topped with a combination of fruit and vegetables.  Mojo can also be cooked with chopped onions and used as a dipping sauce. I topped the fish here with chopped avocado and mango which go nicely with the Mojo sauce.

A typical Cuban meal would consist of rice and beans, cooked together or apart. When cooked together the recipe is called “Moros y Cristianos” (black beans and rice).  (We all had a laugh at this because the English translation is literally Moors and Christians which is not helpful on a menu.) If cooked separately it is called “Arroz con/y Frijoles” (rice and beans). A main course is usually pork or beef, which is not on the Good Mother Diet, however seafood is plentiful (as Cuba is an island) and it is traditional to serve some sort of side dishes like tubers, such as yuca, malanga, and potato all served either hervidas (boiled) or fritas (fried), as well as plantains and bananas). So even for vegetarians, even though it’s a meat heavy diet, there are plenty of yummy things to eat.

Mojo Fruits and Vegetables

I had some form of beans and rice for most meals, many of which had sauteed peppers or other vegetables, but I found that my favorite was a simple black beans and rice.  White rice is traditional in Cuba but I prefer a long grain brown rice which has more flavor as well as better food value.  You can soak the beans overnight and cook them as described on the label, or you can use canned beans that have been drained and rinsed. Authentic beans and rice is made using the water from the cooking calls for cooking the garlic and onions in bacon, however, I have modified this recipe from “Cuban Home Cooking,” by Cossio and Lafray, to be vegetarian/vegan.

Mojo Yucca

I also loved trying the varieties of fruits and vegetables available on this tropical island. My favorites were steamed or fried yucca, also known as cassava, and fried sweet potato.  I am not a fan of plantain but loved fried bananas.  I was skeptical that I could find yucca in my supermarket (and I didn’t even know what it looked like) so was surprised to see a sign for fresh yucca, which turns out to be a long, squashlike vegetable with a hard brown shell right in my local Whole Foods.  Ideally, I would try to eat more seasonal, local foods, however, if I want to try cooking something like yucca or mango that doesn’t grow around here, my only option is to buy it imported from Mexico or South America.  Later this week I’ll try out a few Cuban desserts and share my results.   Enjoy

Mojo Bass

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 Tbsp fresh orange juice

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

1 tsp minced garlic

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp ground oregano

1/8 tsp salt

4 5 or 6 oz bass fillets (or another white fish like snapper or cod, 1 inch thick)

cooking spray or oil for the pan

1 small mango

1 avocado, peeled, seeded and chopped

2 Tbsp fresh mint, sliced crossways into slivers

  • Preheat broiler.
  • Combine first 8 ingredients, stirring with a whisk or briskly with a fork.
  • To chop mango, cut in ‘half’ vertically just to the side of the seed on the flat side.  Then make a row of cuts in the flesh, taking care not to cut through the skin.  Then turn and make a row of cuts crosswise.  Flip the skin inside out and you can easily cut off the cubes. Click the link below for a video on how to cut a mango. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Go-n27Zkv4k

Mojo MangoMojo Avocado Mango

  • Combine mango, avocado and mint in a small bowl and set aside.  Placing the avocado pit on top will prevent it from turning brown.

Mojo Bass in marinade

  • Arrange fish, skin side down, on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray or olive oil. Brush half of orange juice mixture over fish (you can marinate up to an hour); broil 4 minutes. Brush with remaining orange juice mixture; broil 4 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Top with avocado/mango mixture.

Mojo Bass Cooked

Cuban Beans and Rice (Moros y Christianos)

1 cup uncooked rice

1 cup cooked and drained black beans

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 ½ cup vegetable broth (1/3  cup more if using brown rice)

½ onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

  • Saute onion and garlic in 1 Tbsn oil on medium heat until onion is translucent. Remove from pan and set aside.
  • Add rice to the pan and saute until it starts to crackle.
  • Add vegetable broth, cover and let cook over medium low until the rice is tender but not mushy (brown rice will take longer).
  • Add the beans and onion/garlic mixture and 1 Tbsn oil and cook a few minutes longer. Serve warm.

Mojo yucca3Mojo Yucca2

Yucca (Cassava)

1 or 2 fresh Yucca(or frozen)

1 tsp salt

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 Tbsn lemon juice

1/3  cup olive oil

  • Cut the ends off the yucca, then cut it in half, peel with a sharp knife and cut into large pieces.
  • Place yucca into a large pot and cover with water. Add salt. Boil until tender (about 30 minutes).
  • Drain off water and set aside.
  • Sprinkle with garlic and add lemon juice.
  • In a separate pan, heat olive oil until it begins to bubble. Pour over yucca and gently mix. Serve warm.

Fried Sweet Potato and Banana

1-2  sweet potatoes

2-4 bananas (unripe to medium ripe)

2-3 Tbsn olive oil, coconut oil or  avocado oil

  • Peel sweet potatoes and slice horizontally
  • Peel and slice bananas and slice horizontally
  • Heat oil in a heavy pan and fry on medium high heat until browned on both sides.
  • Serve immediately

Mojo Bass with Beans and Rice

Havana, Cuba – Coffee, Rum & Cigars…

8

Cuba Havana

CUBA! A week in Havana has left me delighted by the sights and sounds but dismayed at the deplorable condition of what was once a glorious city. We stayed at Hotel Nacional (in the above photo on the left) perched on a rock wall overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.

Cuba Havana2Cuba car

The classic 50’s cars, some in in faded yellow, green or blue and others hot pink and cherry red, somehow still in pristine condition, add a certain charm, as do the narrow winding streets and wonderful old buildings with overhanging balconies, columns and arches.

Cuba ruinsCuba Ruins2
However, most of the beautiful buildings and mansions are neglected, with peeling paint and crumbled facades. It’s easy to envision how beautiful and vibrant Havana must have been in its heyday. It’s hard not to feel protective of this island nation which has been under communist rule for over 50 years. The people are poor but warm and friendly.  This is a food blog though so I will just leave it there and show you how I ate my way through Havana.

Cuba coffeeCuba cigarsCuba mojito2
Cuba is known for its coffee, cigars and rum (The Bacardi family is from Cuba.) but we also found the food to be delicious.  “Cuban cuisine is a fusion of native Taino food, Spanish, African, and Caribbean cuisine. Some Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. As a result of the colonization of Cuba by Spain, one of the main influences on the cuisine is from Spain. Along with Spain, other culinary influences include Africa, from the Africans that were brought to Cuba as slaves, and Dutch, from the French colonists that came to Cuba from Haiti. Another important factor is that Cuba itself is an island, making seafood something that greatly influences Cuban cuisine. Another contributing factor to Cuban cuisine is the fact that Cuba is in a tropical climate. The tropical climate produces fruits and root vegetables that are used in Cuban dishes and meals.”(Wikipedia)

Cuba Papaya and pineappleCuba bananas and apples

We were with a large group so found the food served in the hotels to be underwhelming but had delicious meals when we ventured into smaller restaurants, many of which were private homes or villas that served food. A typical Cuban breakfast is eggs and ham, or even a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Rice and beans, and pork are the main staples and eaten at most meals. People that live on the coast also eat fish and seafood.  Tropical fruit is gorgeous and abundant. It seems that locals eat what is available and affordable.

Cuba breakfast Cuba Cubano

My days began with lovely Cuban coffee, eggs and some form of rice and beans and a variety of fruit, papaya. guava, banana and grapefruit. I have also included a photo of the very traditional Cubano (grilled ham and cheese) which is also often eaten in the middle of the night when it is called Medianoche.

Cuba farmstand 2Cuba store
Although Cubans rely on their government ration and almost everything is owned by the government, we were surprised and pleased to see so many entrepreneurs. Many locals set up impromptu produce stands, presumably with produce from their gardens, or barbecues with a variety of goodies along the streets and highways. The above photo on the right is a store in Old Havana where locals buy staples like rice and beans when they get their ration every month.

Cuba Playa Santa MariaCuba Playa Santa Maria 2

At Playa Santa Maria, outside of Havana, we had a delicious Mariscada seafood platter with lobster, Dorado (mahi mahi) and fried banana and sweet potato at a beach ‘restaurant’ that some enterprising locals set up with umbrellas and tents. The table next to us ordered a most interesting red snapper that almost looked like it was going to swim away. They were kind enough to let me take a photo.
Cuba MariscadaCuba Red Snapper

Cubans eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, plantain, cassava, banana, potato, yuca, calabeza and sweet potato that are boiled, fried or baked. At Mediterraneo HaVana, which is a private home turned into a Cuban Italian restaurant, another sign of local entrepreneurship. I ordered a very delicious Pargo (red snapper) with tomatoes and olives and Spinach Croquettes, although most croquettes have beef or pork which is not on GMD. (They do love their fried food)

Cuba DoradoCuba Croquettes Espinachi
At Paladar La Guarida, (a fabulous old villa owned by a chef who started the restaurant in his home) we had yucca two ways, steamed in garlic (yum!) and fried like french fries but better.

Cuba steamed yuccaCuba fried yucca

We also had honey lime chicken, black beans and rice ( I could live on this), fried sweet potato and plantain chips, all typical Cuban foods.

Cuba Chicken2Cuba beans and rice

Old Havana, the original ancient city core of Havana, is a charming paradox of very old and a very little bit of new (thanks to outside investing it is being refurbished).  It is  reminiscent of The French Quarter in New Orleans, or rather what it could be if it were completely refurbished and filled with thriving businesses.

Cuba Old HavanaCuba Old Havana2Cuba Old Havana3

We had drinks at the hotel where Hemingway liked to stay when he was in Havana, before he bought a house in the country, and then had dinner at Café Del Oriente in Old Havana, touted as one of the best the city has to offer. One of the dishes we enjoyed was a beautifully prepared fish and octopus carpaccio.

Cuba fish carpaccio

We had a wonderful time in Cuba, however, it is very much a third world country.  You can’t drink the water (like in Mexico), cell phones don’t work (unless you rent or purchase one that does) and they don’t take American money or credit cards.  It would be nice to see our relationship with Cuba restored which would greatly improve the quality of life for the locals.  Sorry, I have no recipes to share today, however, Wheatless Wednesday will feature a complete Cuban meal. Adios!

Cuba Taxi

PHOTO CREDITS:

Havanah Skyline:  http://pacotesviagensbaratos.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Pacote-Cuba-2013.jpg

Cuban Cigars: http://www.prunejuicemedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Cuban-cigars-1-685×1024.jpg

Mojito:  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b3/Mojito_made_with_rum%2C_lime%2C_sugar%2C_mint%2C_club_soda%2C_served_in_a_tall_glass_-_Evan_Swigart.jpg/220px-Mojito_made_with_rum%2C_lime%2C_sugar%2C_mint%2C_club_soda%2C_served_in_a_tall_glass_-_Evan_Swigart.jpg